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How to Pick a Summer Camp

There are more than 8,000 summer camps in the U.S., offering everything from canoeing to computers. Take some time with your kids to decide which summer camp is right for them and how long they should be away from home.
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Nearly every successful summer-camp experience requires lots and lots of sunblock, a flashlight, and a bathing suit. But long before you cross things off your child's packing list, self-evaluation of your goals will go a long way to ensuring that you pick the right summer camp for your child, say camp experts.

"A good camp experience begins with self-evaluation," says Jeffrey Solomon, MSW, executive director of the National Camp Association (NCA), a non-profit organization. "Parents need to ask themselves what their goals are for their child. There are so many types of camps out there -- sports, arts, nature, computers -- that to make the right choice requires knowing exactly what you want from a camp."

Solomon says that some of the questions parents need to ask include how much time they want their child to spend away from home, how much the camp stay will cost, and whether a general-interest camp or a specialty camp that focuses on a specific activity is needed.

"There are more than 8,000 summer camps in the U.S.," says Solomon. "That's great because it means there is a camp for every need and every interest. But setting goals can very quickly narrow the choices down to a reasonable number to deal with."

Some summer camps cater to children with special medical needs such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"When a medical disorder is involved, such as ADHD, diabetes, or depression, the parents may want to talk to their doctor to determine whether the child's symptoms require a special-needs camp. Sometimes, if the symptoms are not severe, a general camp may be the better option."

The NCA's web site, atwww.summercamp.org, has a free, question-and-answer feature that allows parents to profile their needs, goals, and other specifics such as camp location and cost. The web site matches the parent profile with summer camps that most closely meet the specifications.

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